One of the trends going on in employment circles right now is that international background checks are becoming more common. Make no mistake, these broader background screenings are still far from the norm and some companies haven't even begun to consider them yet, let alone implement them. After all, for employers that don't go beyond statewide background checks, it stands to reason that international screenings wouldn't even be on the radar.
However, while not all businesses would even really benefit from having international screenings in place, there are instances where international background checks might just be crucial. Read on to learn why your company might want to look beyond the borders of the U.S. to vet your prospective employees.
1) You have an American-born applicant who has lived abroad
Because most applicants have spent at least the most recent years of their lives in the area where the company they are applying for is located, county and state background checks are typically the most useful resources for finding out about criminal activity. However, if you are vetting an applicant who just recently moved back to the U.S. after years spent living abroad, any criminal activity they might have on their record will likely only be found with an international background check.
2) Your applicant pool includes recent immigrants, green card holders or visa holders
Your rule of thumb for determining whether or not you need to run international background checks for Americans who have lived abroad should concern how long ago that person returned to the U.S. Someone who lived abroad more than 10 years ago, for instance, probably does not need an international background check because, in most cases, that information won't be relevant anymore anyway. Use a similar rule if your applicant pool contains individuals who have recently completed the immigration process, individuals who have green cards or individuals who are temporary visa holders. Foreign-born applicants don't need international background checks if they've been here longer than 10 years, and you might even adopt a looser rule depending on your industry and the job at hand. Regardless of the scenario, though, if a permanent immigrant or visa-holder has lived in the U.S. for less than five years, you are going to want to run an international screening for extra assurance.
3) Your company has offices abroad
If your business has gone international and you have offices or branches in different countries, then a fair percentage of your applicant base is going to hail from those countries. Needless to say, you are going to have to come up with a completely different background check process for these applicants than the one you have at your U.S. offices. In such cases, perform due diligence and learn the rules and steps for background checks in all the countries and cities where your offices are located.
4) Your business hires migrant workers
If you run a company that hires migrant workers, those workers need to be subjected to background checks just like the rest of your employees. Knowing what countries your workers come from is important to knowing how to go about obtaining background checks for them. As with any other background check, these international checks are important for protecting your business from negligent hiring liability, providing a safe workplace and more.
5) An applicant has a degree from a foreign institution
Background checks aren't all about criminal history. In a standard employee vetting situation, your business probably also looks into educational history, work history, and more. If your applicant claims to have a degree from a foreign college or university, it goes without saying that you are going to have to look beyond American borders to verify that person's education. The fact that your applicant went to school internationally might also be a reason to expand your criminal check of them to include an international screening.
What you need to know about performing international background checks
Just like there is no comprehensive database of criminal records in the U.S., there is no across-the-board well of information for international checks either. If you want to do international screenings, you will have to do them on a country-by-country basis. In other words, you will have to know where your international applicant comes from or where your American-born applicants have lived abroad. You would then use that information to look up the processes for running background checks in those countries.
The argument against international background screenings
The five criteria listed above represent the biggest reasons that your company would (and should) conduct international background checks on applicants. Of course, other employers could consider international screening as an extra protective precaution. After all, criminals do cross borders and traditional background checks might not flag them—particularly if those individuals have assumed false identities.
Every country (and sometimes, every region or local jurisdiction) has its own laws, rules and regulations when it comes to background checks, which means that running international screenings can make for an extremely complicated and convoluted process. International background checks also often take a long time, which can put both your business and your applicant in limbo for weeks or even months.
Unless your company is making international hires or considering applicants who have lived abroad for considerable periods of time, the challenges and costs of international background screenings might not justify the extra assurance they might provide.
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